South America gap semester:
Ecuador & Peru
Globalization & Spanish Immersion
How will you Carpe Diem?
Characterized by awe-inspiring landscapes, diverse cultures, and a deep sense of shared history, Ecuador and Peru offer a fascinating view into the complexities of native communities, post-colonialism, and the increasing pressures of globalization.
From the arid beaches of the Pacific Coast; to the soaring Andes Mountains; down the steep eastern slope into the Amazon jungle, Carpe Diem Education provides an opportunity to explore a region of immense natural beauty and abundance; to discover energetic, vibrant multicultural societies; and to study, practice, and expand your knowledge of the Spanish language.
- Experience traditional life through home stays with indigenous families in the cloud forest of Ecuador. Learn about the impacts of large scale resource extraction on local communities and habitats.
- Learn how globalization is impacting farming methods on a local and global scale. You’ll visit two coastal communities, spending a week on a family-run organic farm, and one week on a large scale production farm.
- Engage in immersive Spanish classes while participating in home stays, practicing language with host families, and refining your Spanish skills through individualized language lessons.
- Discover the Amazon basin as you participate in forest and river rehabilitation efforts.
- Experience the majestic Peruvian Andes as you trek to the ancient Incan ruins at Machu Picchu.
Sharing the cultural legacy of the Incan civilization, Ecuador and Peru offer a rich and diverse subset of cultures and traditions. From vibrant Afro-Ecuadorian communities of Coastal Ecuador to distinctive indigenous Quichua communities of the Andes and the Amazon, the diversity of people and environment is truly spectacular.
Once part of the thriving Incan Empire, this region experienced the harsh impacts of colonization, which decimated indigenous populations and Incan civilization as a whole. Yet indigenous populations still thrive here, with upwards of 10 million people still speaking the Quechua language. Inhabiting the mineral-rich Andes mountains, and the heavily forested Amazon jungle, these communities are facing the pressures of large scale mining, deforestation, and resource depletion.
How are local communities defending their lands from corporate interests and increased demand for resources? How are people and the environment affected by economic globalization? How are the additional stresses of tourism, population growth, and migration to urban centers affecting these regions?
By engaging with the land through hands-on farming and conservation efforts, we’ll establish a connection to people and place, and begin exploring these questions. Through consistent study and practice of Spanish, we’ll improve our ability to listen to the stories of others, and to share our own. By living with host families in different environments, we discover the thread of history, language, and culture that bind these communities together, while experiencing their unique expression of belief, tradition, and ways of living.
We’ll assist in the restoration of jungle habitats and river ecosystems while living in the Amazon region. Moving into the cloud forests of Ecuador, we’ll participate in reforestation efforts by planting endemic trees specific to this unique environment. Moving further into the Intag valley, we will discover the stories of communities who are embattled in an effort to preserve valuable wildlife habitat, keep corporate mining interests off their lands, and promote organic and sustainable agricultural practices.
Carpe Diem Education’s South America semester takes you to some of the most culturally and ecologically diverse regions of the world. Through hands-on, experiential learning, intensive Spanish study, and discussions specific to resources, economics, and community, the journey through Ecuador and Peru allows us a deeper understanding of the realities of globalization.
Accepting Applications For:
My Carpe Diem semester in South America challenged my assumptions about the world and challenged me in a new way at every turn. I am so thankful I'll be going to college and into the rest of my life with the lessons of this semester.
Carpe Diem leads the willing participant to a world of opportunities, to a world that loves, a world that is full of surprises just waiting to be explored. Go forth and live in the moment, take the risk, take the road least traveled by, and surprise yourself!
I was really locked into the neverending path of the classic education system in our society. I was stressed out, burned out, borderline depressed, and losing passion for something so incredible, valuable, and important in our life: education. I am so glad that I got to experience education through experience; my perspective has widened greatly. My knowledge of the environment has exponentially grown. I have developed irreplaceable travel skills and confidence. My Spanish has improved unbelievably. My communication skills and commitment to the present is much greater from my disconnection to stimulation through technology, alcohol, or drugs. Going on the path less traveled was worth every moment. I can return to a university with a renewed passion, a refreshed spirit and mind, and greater perspective for personal values and wants out of life which will help me greatly in my future decisions. Why wait to see the world, learn a language, and live?
I implore you to be a sponge and soak up every second of a Carpe Diem semester. There is not a second in time that I was on this trip and did not feel so incredibly thankful for where I was. This South America program allows students to delve into the culture in which we are so privileged to be apart of—largely by staying in homestays. This allows the students to have a better understanding of truly what goes on in the community that you are staying with. This program's diversity in landscape is something that is incredible. In a span of three weeks, we went from the coast of Ecuador to the Amazon Rainforest, and then the Andes Mountains. This jam-packed semester constantly has you learning things that further your global consciousness. I most certainly have a much better understanding of what it means to be a global citizen.
I highly recommend this program to anyone who wants to learn more about themselves and how the world works. If you keep an open mind and ear, you can learn more from these three months than you can in a year in a classroom. Go out, learn, experience new cultures, and make connections that will last you for your whole life!
Carpe Diem goes deep: from the start of the trip, I was impressed with how mature the students were and how eager everyone was to be their authentic selves. Our Overseas Educators held high expectations for us in terms of being open, pushing ourselves, and connecting to the local communities we lived with. We got to experience all sorts of lifestyles throughout the trip, and had plenty of balance between working as volunteers, learning from teachers and locals, challenging ourselves, and just relaxing and soaking up the sun! My Carpe Diem group is my family. I wasn't expecting to have such powerful relationships with the other students and my OEs—this semester has been such a gift!
Seize Your Journey
- The first three days of your semester will be spend in a comfy backpacker hostel in Quito. Explore UNESCO cultural sites in the old city and taste your first bites of South America cuisine while learning more about the program and your fellow group mates. You’ll learn also learn strategies for staying safe and healthy while traveling.
Traveling to the coast of Ecuador, the group will live on a small banana farm, learning about coastal agriculture while studying Spanish.
In Baños you’ll live with a host family, spend the mornings studying Spanish, and the afternoons volunteering with an after-school program. Participate in activities like traditional cooking or salsa classes and take a dip in the local hot springs, for which the town is named.
In Peguche, you’ll again live with host families, and spend the week studying Spanish and learning about indigenous arts and music. Visit the famous crafts market in nearby Otavalo and start prepping for your trek to Machu Picchu with hikes through the surrounding countryside.
Navigate the narrow cobblestone streets, canals, and spectacular Incan ruins of the beautiful small town of Ollantaytambo. Spend a week living with host families and continuing your study of Spanish.
STUDIES IN SUSTAINABILITY
Spend a week in a small town in the Intag region of Ecuador, where you’ll learn the principles of sustainable farming and living, as well as the impact of mining and resources extraction on this fragile and biodiverse environment.
Learn about Permaculture, sustainable living, and small town economics in a coastal Ecuadorian community. We’ll spend time working on a small farm, learn about local cooking, natural building, and coffee growing. We’ll also visit other farmers and craftspeople in the area—and take a day to visit the local beach for a swim.
STUDENT DIRECTED TRAVEL
- The group will have a unique opportunity to design, plan, budget, and implement their own itinerary together. Examples of past student directed travel adventures include exploring Arequipa and Colca Canyon, hiking the stunning Rainbow Rocks outside of Cusco, and visiting the salt flats and hot springs in Peru’s Sacred Valley.
Travel to a small community in the Amazon and partner with a local NGO working on rainforest conservation. Our work might include helping with reforestation projects, erosion control, or river turtle conservation, while learning about ways to live sustainably in this uniquely beautiful and remote environment.
COMMUNITY BASED SERVICE LEARNING
- Visit a small, indigenous community in Peru’s Sacred Valley where you’ll help with potato planting, llama herding, and community gardening. Live with local families and experience rural life in Peru.
Machu Picchu Trek
For the grand finale of our semester, the group will spend five days trekking through the remote villages and breathtaking landscapes of the Sacred Valley; summiting the mountain passes of the Andes to the phenomenal ancient Incan City. Return to Cuzco after the trek to celebrate all the successes of the semester before returning to the US.
- Enjoy some downtime to reflect and integrate all that we’ve learned from each other, our travels, and the communities we’ve been a part of. This retreat, led by a Peruvian yogi in the Sacred Valley, is an opportunity to try yoga and meditation, and give some attention to our bodies, minds, and spirits.
The Student Experience
Explore the following links to learn about the Carpe Diem South America student experience.